Real love sometimes means saying goodbye, even when all you want to hear is a lifetime of hellos....
The reality of abandonment is financially, psychologically and emotionally abusive to the partner left behind, and acknowledged as such under law. It's not like breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend in high school. When you have a physical love relationship that includes sharing your lives, a home, expenses, planning a family, and a future, you don't just walk away. It's cruel and unusual to do so. Any individual who thinks that disappearing is a good idea is clearly suffering from a psychological disorder, like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), where discarding people you supposedly love is common behavior. However, there is no justification that can excuse what is a deliberately destructive social act.
Suffering from a disorder like NPD does not remove regret, nor does it remove love. It also does not remove responsibility either. When a regretful person chooses to not fix things it has more to do with ego and pride than any form of illness, mental or otherwise. The excuse for the discard is to avoid "drama"--but that drama only exists because the regretful person created it specifically to avoid their responsibilities in the relationship. No one forced you to fuck another person or say you would love that individual "forever and always." You had no problem enjoying the fun parts, but when it came down to paying the bills, suddenly, there were "doubts." Pushing the consequences of your choices onto another is not only unethical, not only selfish, it is actually criminal.
And yet, a person who runs away does so because that individual has also been abused, and, likely by a malignant narcissist. It still does not excuse anti-social behavior, but for those who have been victimized by the wounded who wound, it is imperative to understand that the person who left was not in control, and never will be.
Once you've been made vulnerable by abuse, you will always be vulnerable. And, vulnerable people can never be in full control of their own lives.
All of the above makes me think of an acquaintance and our ill-fated dinner at an overtly American chain-eatery called Longhorn Steakhouse--not my first choice. We sat down, ordered drinks, and then, my dinner companion proceeded to ruin a perfectly good evening by talking about his ex. Even as he sat in a restaurant with a beautiful woman, he could not stop thinking about the ex he left for "ruining his life" and how she had been "living it up" at, you guessed it, Longhorn Steakhouse.
Though my dinner companion may have been physically separated from his ex, he had not yet emotionally separated from her. This guy shouldn't have cared at all about what his ex was or wasn't doing; if half of what he told me was true, he was lucky to have gotten away with his life. But instead of feeling lucky, he sat there, steaming--envious because his ex never wanted to go out with him. He was in pain, still attached to the woman who lied to him, cheated on him repeatedly, and ultimately, abused him--all the reasons he left her to begin with. You see, it is our abusers who always have the power--even if we are no longer physically connected to them. Therefore, our abusers are always in control. This was the case for my dinner companion, who could not see two feet in front of him. All he could see was what his abuser wanted him to see. Even when she was 20 miles away.
By the way, this tainted-love story does not have a happy ending. When this guy walked away from his toxic ex, he likely did it just to get her attention, not to truly move on with his life. He expected his ex to start crying, begging--things that never happened. Instead, his ex was glad to be rid of him; she discarded him, ignoring him for months until her job was in jeopardy. Then, she suddenly needed him again. Even though he was in a healthy, loving relationship with someone younger, hotter, and more successful than his ex (for over a year at that point), the moment his ex showed up at his work with a box of chocolates and an apology, he was like an abused puppy. So grateful to get her positive attention, he was willing to do almost anything to keep it--despite the fact that his ex was clearly using him. Again.
Constant abuse and rejection from my dinner companion's ex during their relationship of 10+ years left this man psychologically- and emotionally-vulnerable to her. Even though his life was infinitely better without her, he still craved her acceptance. That's a sign of severe neglect, abuse and (at least emotional) abandonment. Society expects people who have suffered domestic violence to get themselves out, but human psychology makes that nearly impossible. We are constantly looking for social validation. When his ex showed up at his work place with her apology, this man not only received the validation he craved, he also suddenly found himself in a rare position of power over his abuser. She wanted him back. Nothing else mattered.
All of the above is why getting closure from an abuser is not always possible, regardless of your gender. Once you've been made vulnerable by an abuser, you are never not vulnerable to that person. The only way to end what is an established cycle of abuse (and probably violence, too), is to walk away and never look back. Like quitting smoking. Or, giving up alcohol. You can't be around it at all, or you'll end up going back to bad habits. But if you're tied in financially to your abuser, leaving isn't easy. Not just because of money either....
Part of the insidious nature of abuse is how it causes codependency--in other words, a kind of psychological and emotional addiction. My dinner companion believed his toxic ex suddenly wanted him back because she "loved" him. The thing is, if she really loved him, she would have let him go. His toxic ex had only caused him pain in their time together--holding him down and back. The evidence to that effect was crystal clear--most couples have at least purchased a home after a decade or more together. There are things like shared investments, children, businesses, heck, at least a picture of the two of you together--yet, none of that existed.
After my dinner companion had the courage to leave his abusive ex, he was able to start over with someone new. Eight months or so later, he and his someone-new had moved into a nice house in a great neighborhood. Because the new relationship was a healthy one, it had forward momentum--things like planning a family, starting a business, taking trips together, and, lots and lots of smiling pictures. The moment my dinner companion's ex saw all this on social media, she became enraged. Jealous. You see, my dinner companion was not a person to her; he was a possession. A toy she had forgotten about, then suddenly, wanted back ONLY because someone else wanted him. Not because she really did. Codependency is like that.
My dinner companion had built a brand new life for himself. It took well over a year, but he had done more in that time than he had accomplished in 10+ years with his abusive ex. Outside of inheriting a million-dollars, his life was as perfect as anyone could imagine life to be. He had a beautiful partner who loved him (according to him, they had sex every single day...color me jealous!), lived in a clean, organized house, and ate home-cooked meals on a regular basis. Apparently, this Wonder Woman even brought him coffee in bed and made him hot breakfast, packing him a lunch, too (!!!). The two went on fun vacations, saw movies, enjoyed dinners, breakfasts, weekends away--it's basically what every human being wants more than anything else on the planet. Despite my dinner companion's happy life of over a year, it took only ten days for his abusive ex to get him so unhinged, he left ALL of that behind. That included leaving behind plans for the future to have a family...even getting married. There was a wedding date. She had bought a dress. Yet, he packed up and left without a word. Disappeared. That's part of the danger of reconnecting with an abuser. You will lose control and you won't even know it. My dinner companion could not see how he changed since reconnecting with his abusive ex, but I could. Pointed it out to him, too. Not that it mattered; he was no longer in control. His ex was.
I distinctly remember talking all this out with my dinner companion--even explaining how rewarding the negative behavior of his ex was like giving her permission to continue to take advantage of him, regardless of what he hoped her intentions might be. His response was not wholly unexpected, but it was still so sad, "I don't know what to do...the woman I'm with could be the best thing that has ever happened to me. But, I feel so torn. Maybe I just need some space. Temporarily."
Of course, needing space meant going backwards to the toxic ex. I could see it in his eyes...the excitement of finally getting the attention he always craved. He had no way of recognizing that he was no longer in control--his abuser was. It was disturbing to witness the effects of mental illness in this way. I tried to explain to him that if he left the life he worked so hard to build in the last year behind, it would not be there for him to go back to. No woman of worth would tolerate a man walking away from all they had--she would see it as a betrayal, because, it was a betrayal. My dinner companion's "someone new" would ask for his key, pack up his things, and move on to a person who would appreciate her. A man who would never question IF she was the best thing to ever happen to him, because he would know--without a doubt--that she was.
My dinner companion allowed himself to be manipulated by his abusive ex, leaving behind a woman who truly loved him, just so he could get approval from his abuser. Women are typically victimized by men in relationships, but in this case, my dinner companion had met his abusive ex when he was about a year out of high school. She was 15 years older than him, had been married and divorced twice already and had a kid closer to my companion's age than she was; his abusive ex basically took advantage of an inexperienced kid for her own benefit. By the time he was 25, he knew things weren't right, but it took him another five years to have the courage to finally leave. Sadly, the hold his abuser had on him at that point was so deep, it couldn't be undone in the brief time we spent together.
Today, my dinner companion can't seem to stop looking backwards. He still questions his decision to leave what was the perfect life behind for something that never made him happy, nor ever will. He often obsesses over the woman he walked away from despite the fact that it has been years since he has seen or spoken to her. He constantly seeks her out online--even though she has blocked him from her social media accounts. When she still lived near him, he would drive by her home, too--which is ultimately why she moved. He misses the life he had with her, but still can't see why everything fell apart. And, he never will. The abusive ex he returned to got him so mixed up, he'll never be free of her control. It's incredibly sad, because the only person who can really help him is him. He's just too mentally beaten down to attempt to break away again. I recommended he at least try to get some closure with the woman he still seems to love; a simple phone call could quite possibly make all the difference.
And, what about the woman my dinner companion left behind? In the intervening years, she has traveled all over the world and is perhaps even more successful in her field than ever before. She seems to have a never-ending supply of good-looking suitors. And, while he can't compete with the new life she has rebuilt after his disappearance, I know she still loves him. It was real for her. Though I dearly hope she eventually finds her bliss again one day; she deserves true happiness.
How do you prevent yourself from becoming the victim of a past, present or future abuser? Avoid repeating the mistakes of my dinner companion, whose tongue (and tail) were eagerly wagging in anticipation of his abusive "owner" petting him, giving him treats and letting him back in the house.
If you don't want to be treated like a discarded pet, stop acting like one. When you let an abuser pull you back with their proverbial choker chain, you are allowing yourself to be domesticated, like a dog. If you think the petting, snuggling and sweet talk will continue after that, you're in for a rude awakening. You will be kicked again. Abused again. And, in this particular case, being a dog at the whim of a person who can only be described as a malignant narcissist--at best--means you will one day be found dead at your water bowl.
I really hope this helps people in abusive situations to at least identify patterns of behavior. It took me years to figure this stuff out. Why do people we love do shitty things to us? It can't just be that we always choose the crazies...yes, that may be part of the problem, but the biggest obstacle is a lack of communication about how mental illness starts, where it starts, what it is, and why it progresses. If you live with a malignant narcissist long enough, you take on narcissistic traits yourself. You may not be a total psycho, but if you self-sabotage on a regular basis, keeping yourself a victim, you have developed narcissism, too. You simply can't live with people who have severe personality disorders for a good portion of your life and not be affected. That's why getting out is so important. If you ever want a shot at stability, you have to leave the toxicity far behind you, or, you'll never be in control of your own life.
Psychologists call self-sabotagers "covert" or vulnerable narcissists. You hurt yourself, and, of course, anyone connected to your (constantly) sinking ship. None of it is ever your fault. It's always something or someone else. Circumstances beyond your control. Those are common refrains of those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder--considered one of the "Dark Triad" in behavioral psychology because those with any level of NPD are social-destroyers. A narcissist never takes responsibility so always blames others--whether malignant or vulnerable.
Except...if you are not in control of your own life, who is?
Yes, people do things outside of our influence that can hurt us and our lives through no fault of our own. But when that happens, it is our job to make decisions that help improve our own lives. Sitting around and blaming others, or, waiting for a savior, a protector, or a magical windfall like winning the lottery, instead of acting on actually taking responsibility for yourself means you've started to fall into narcissistic behavioral patterns. To prevent becoming mentally-ill after being abused or victimized by someone else with mental illness, you must get educated, or re-educate if you have to. Apply to jobs where you work smarter, not harder. Break contact with toxic social connections, or at least, greatly minimize them. Work to reduce, and eventually eliminate, your debt. Make smart financial choices, like becoming a home-owner. This all happens over time--decades--so you must be patient and you must also AVOID people who show signs of NPD or any psychological disorder that falls within the "Dark Triad" (including psychopathy and Machiavellianism, both of which are closely linked to NPD).
Decades of efforts to improve yourself will be completely undone by connecting with just one individual exhibiting traits from the "Dark Triad." It is 100% better to be alone than to let a destroyer into your life--no matter how attractive that person may be (or, how good the sex is). When you are financially stable, you will not be vulnerable to making poor decisions based on that vulnerability. Your chances of finding real love go up exponentially from there--regardless of your age, gender, or any other reason.
You can stop holding your breath now....
*completed at 2:29